These days, we don’t just want to feel OK. We want to feel absolutely, positively amazing—and look the part, too.
Aging gracefully depends on how you nurture your body. Today, a trove of studies shows the importance of following a nutrient-dense diet, being active and taking dietary supplements to support a healthy aging process. One of the clear standouts to help along the way: collagen, an antiaging nutrient that rose to stardom in Japan decades ago and now is making its prowess known here in the United States, thanks to innovative, research-backed products and an understanding that what goes inside your body supports your skin, hair and nails.
“In Asia, collagen supplements have long been a craze, and even before [collagen supplements], the tradition of consuming certain foods to rejuvenate the complexion is an old one,” says Naomi Whittel, founder of Reserveage Nutrition. “Asian diets are rich in collagen from foods like homemade bone broth from skin-on, bone-in chicken.”
Found plentifully just about everywhere in our bodies—from our skin, hair and nails to our bones and joints—collagen is an important protein for staving off wrinkles and keeping our joints healthy. The problem? As we age, we start to lose it. A notable decline in your collagen production starts at age 25, which means relying on your body’s stores simply isn’t enough.
Are you getting enough?
When it comes to collagen, experts agree it’s nearly impossible to get enough from diet alone, so you have to look elsewhere. Luckily, with food products getting more functional and supplements using new delivery formats, it’s no challenge to find products that contain the powerful antiaging protein.
“My first goal is for my clients to get everything they need from their food,” says Brooke Alpert, RD, founder of the website and nutritional practice B Nutritious. That’s why she recommends that clients drink bone broth, as well as cook bone-in poultry to up their dietary intake of collagen.
“It’s still not enough to really reap the health and skin benefits; that’s why I always recommend a collagen supplement.”
Today, supplement companies offer many ways to get collagen. Whether you favor a pill, a powder or a chewable, collagen supplements are beneficial for a few reasons: As with other supplements, they can send a quick dose of the nutrient to your body. Unlike other supplements, a collagen supplement can also stimulate cells to produce even more collagen at a faster rate, spawning natural rebuilding of the body’s tissues.
Focus on quality
With the rise of collagen supplements has come more scrutiny over the quality of ingredients. In order to find a top-notch product, ask your retailer or the manufacturer about the collagen in products—does clinical research support its joint or skin benefits? Also be sure to ask where and how the ingredient was sourced. “Collagen is produced all over the world, so it’s important to pay attention to the way the animals are raised,” says Corey Friese, Vital Proteins cofounder and vice president of product strategy. The three main types of collagen are bovine, chicken and fish, so responsible companies source only the highest quality ingredients that meet the same standards you’d look for if you were eating those foods—for example, grass-fed cattle or wild-caught fish.
Of course, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, collagen is off limits. That’s one reason that the next frontier for collagen may be plant-based collagen precursors, Whittel says. “Ingredients such as high-quality vitamin C, preferably organic plant based; specific amino acids such as glycine, proline and lysine; and silica-rich compounds such as bamboo extract all help our bodies synthesize and produce more collagen.” Some collagen companies are also adding these ingredients to collagen to help you get more value for your money.